Pakistan Tour of England
Amir-zing spell has England on notice
Pakistan quick almost unplayable as he runs through Somerset order in first bowl of tour
5 July 2016, 10:37 AM AEST
Pakistan pace ace Mohammad Amir has sounded an ominous early warning to England batsman that he will be a handful this summer, tearing through defences in Pakistan's warm-up match against Somerset.
After Younis Khan scored the single he needed to complete his century then fell shortly after, Pakistan declared at 8-359 on the second morning in Taunton to put a shiny new Dukes ball in Amir's hands for the first time since the ill-fated 2010 spot-fixing scandal at Lord's.
Amir had a steady start but former England opener Marcus Tescothick was able to tuck him away for a couple of boundaries in his opening over on English soil.
He conceded just a single in his second over and began to wreak havoc in his third, the left-handed Trescothick undone by a seaming outswinger that took the outside edge and was well held by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Amir's next over was a little wayward as he got accustomed to the pronounced Dukes seam – four byes was followed by a boundary off the bat to opener Adam Hose. But the bowler had his revenge with an unplayable delivery that uprooted the off stump.
At lunch, Amir had bowled six overs for 2-16, with Sohail Khan picking up the other wicket to fall, that of Tim Rouse, who was also caught behind for 1 as Somerset reached 3-56.
His prodigious movement on the wicket-taking deliveries prompted Somerset's social media team to have their own crack at ball-tracking, a welcome development for first-class cricket which is usually denied the expensive technology prelevant in the international game.
Better was to come after lunch, with Amir striking with the third ball after the break to dismiss Peter Trego with a ball delivered from around the wicket that pitched on middle and straighted to send the stump cartwheeling.
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Amir finished with 3-36 as Somerset were bowled out for 128, with Pakistan reaching 4-140 at stumps, with Azher Ali unbeaten on 50.
Amir has been the centre of fierce media scrutiny since landing in England where he will play his first Test since being banned for bowling no-balls to order in a spot-fixing scandal that rocked cricket in 2010.
Serendipitously, he will return to the Test format at Lord's, the same venue where his fixing, along with that of captain Salman Butt and fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif, was revealed in a tabloid newspaper sting.
Stuart Broad this week said he was still bitter his sole Test century, scored in that 2010 Lord's Test, had been overshadowed by the spot-fixing scandal.
And England captain Alastair Cook had warned British crowds would give Amir a hostile reception on his return to Test cricket in the country.
"I'm sure there will be a reaction, and that is right," Cook told reporters this week.
"It is part and parcel: when you do something like that there are more consequences than just the punishment.
"That is something for him to cope with, whatever comes his way."
Broad had detailed how he was "annoyed" his Test century would forever be connected with the spot-fixing scandal.
"Of course it annoys me that that game will always be connected with what went on. Lord's is the home of cricket. It's a wonderful place to play and that Test match will always be remembered for the wrong reasons," Broad told the Mail on Sunday.
"It was my best-ever innings, my only Test century and coming in tough circumstances as well. It was a good battle and I'll never forget the feeling I got running through for that hundred.
"From what we know, the three Pakistan players weren't actually fixing the game as a whole — a no-ball doesn't affect if I hit a four or not — so I can still look back with a lot of pride on scoring that hundred. But of course it was tarnished by what happened."
Broad and Cook have both said they believe anyone convicted of any fixing should be handed an automatic life ban, but both have also said they have no issue with Amir playing in the forthcoming series.
"Whether I agreed or disagreed with the punishment, he got it, served his time and he is absolutely right to come back," Cook said.
"You'd have to speak to him. What he did wasn't good but he served his punishment then. The ICC haven't made any big statements, but if I was in charge, if you got caught once that would be it — one strike and you're out."
Quick Single: 'No hard feelings, but ban fixers'
Media attention surrounding Amir's return "to the scene of the crime" has been high, with the fast bowler's every move watched and name mentioned in every press conference.
But for Cook and the England team, the machinations of the Fleet Street machine and intense spotlight it brings are nothing new.
"Whatever Test match you are playing in, there is always something off the field, whether it is political or something like this," Cook said.
"It won't affect us as a side. We will concentrate on what we can concentrate on."